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Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven






Cash is the lifeblood of any business. Managing it well is one of your
most important jobs as an entrepreneur if your company is going to
survive and thrive.
Indeed, small business owners consistently say financial management is
one of their biggest worries. Entrepreneurs named it as their second
biggest challenge, after marketing and sales, in a 2014 BDC survey.
Yet many business owners arent doing the basic financial housekeeping
that could give them greater control over their company and more peace
of mind, according to the survey of BDC ViewPoints panel members.

Dont neglect basic steps

For example, almost half of surveyed entrepreneurs say they dont make
cash flow projections for their business and compare them to actual results
during the year.
Even profitable, fast-growing company can face a serious cash flow crunch
while waiting for money to come in. In fact, its surprisingly common for
profitable companies to go out of business because they ran out of cash.
Thats why you often hear the expression cash is king.
This eBook is a guide to the basics of good cash flow management. And
since 82% of the entrepreneurs surveyed by BDC say theyre responsible
for managing cash flow and financing in their company, this book is for you.

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Learn to monitor inflows and outflows

The message of this eBook is that a few easy steps can improve your cash
flow management and help you avoid financial stumbles. Youll learn how to
prepare cash flow projections, use them to monitor your actual cash flow
and make adjustments before problems fly out of control. Youll also learn
how to finance your business more intelligently.
The eBook gives you techniques to collect cash more quickly, keep it in
your business longer and sink less into inventory. Along the way, we offer
seven emergency tips for surviving a sudden cash flow squeeze.
To help you apply the lessons, youll read real-life stories of Canadian
entrepreneurs, all BDC clients, who use smart cash flow management
to fuel bigger profits and sustainable growth. Its a key to their business
success, and it can be for you, too.

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If you want to improve your companys cash flow, the first step is to take a
look at your business and make sure youre earning an appropriate profit.
If your business isnt consistently profitable, better cash flow management
while helpfulwill be no better than a Band-Aid on a potentially fatal wound.
And even if you are making a profit, could you be doing better? Is every
one of your products or services pulling its weight and contributing to your
profitability? Does your pricing take into account all of your costs?
A surprisingly large number of entrepreneurs cant answer these basic
questions, but addressing them is a critical step in improving your cash flow.

Careful analysis is vital

A careful analysis of the reasons for your profit problems is vital to coming
up with the right solutions. Struggling businesses or product lines often
suffer from more than one problem, which can make it harder to find a fix.
Thats what Mike Whittaker discovered at his company, Bont Foods,
a deli-meat manufacturer in New Brunswick.
Based in Dieppe, a suburb of Moncton, Bont faced grave cash flow
problems in 2006 and 2007. The company had experienced major cost
overruns related to an expansion of its meat-processing facility and an
acquisition. It was having difficulty meeting some of its debt obligations,
but it was too late to go back on those projects.
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Took action to improve profits

Thats when Bont took action on many levels to become more profitable.
With the help of BDCs Business Restructuring Unit, the company carefully
analyzed why its cash flow had deteriorated so badly.
Whittaker realized Bonts pricing didnt reflect its costs, and the company
responded by approaching its customers to ask for substantially higher
prices. Most accepted, swayed by Bonts analysis and the solid business
relationships they enjoyed with the company.
The review also revealed that Bont could boost profitability by unloading
some product lines that had lower profit margins. We narrowed our vision
to a laser-like focus on meats, our core competency, Whittaker says.

We learned to watch our

cash very carefully.

MICHAEL WHITTAKER | President | Bont Foods

The company also launched an operational efficiency drive, which included

tightening cash flow management and bringing in just-in-time inventory
practices. We learned to watch our cash very carefully, Whittaker says.
The changes spurred rapid sales and margin growth. Sales in the
companys meat division are up 36% since 2009, while gross profit is up
almost 6%. Now were a healthy company with a bright future.

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4 profit pitfalls to avoid

Here are four of the most common causes of profitability problems for
a business or specific product line, along with possible solutions.

Insufficient revenue

Are your revenues enough to cover all your expenses and produce
your desired profit? If not, why not? A possible reason is youre in
the start-up phase of your business or have just launched a new
product line.

If this is the case, its important to be realistic about how long it will
take revenues to catch up to costs. You may have to endure losses
for one or two yearsperhaps even longerand you will need
money from savings, financing or an investment to tide you over.

On the other hand, an established business may be running at a

loss because its revenues have recently declined. Its important to
quickly determine the specific reasons and address them.

Inappropriate pricing

Do your prices cover your costs? Unfortunately, many

entrepreneurs dont know for sure.

Its common for small businesses to price their products and

services based on what the competition is charging. But that could
be a mistake.

Its important to know all your costs and your desired return on
capital, and to take these into account when you set your prices.
It isnt necessarily bad for your prices to be higher than those
of your competitors. In fact, this is perfectly appropriate if your
strategy is based on differentiationoffering a unique or
specialized product.

A growing number of businesses use estimating software to take

the guesswork out of making job bids that better reflect their

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costs. The software takes into account overhead costs, the price of
material and other expenses as well as your targeted profit margin,
ensuring that every job is profitable.


Are you being as efficient as you can be? This question is

especially important if you are using a low-price strategy to
gain competitive advantage.

Its important to look at each of your costssuch as labour,

material and overheadand benchmark them against norms in
your industry. If your costs are above average, it means youre not
as efficient as your competitors and action is required. For industry
benchmark data, consult Industry Canadas SME Benchmarking
Tool (www.sme.ic.gc.ca).

To improve efficiency, its also worth exploring information

technology tools. They can offer user-friendly and affordable ways
to improve productivity across your business, including inventory
control, operations, accounting, human resources management
and customer relationships.

Low margins

Do you know the profit margin for each of your products and
services? Analyzing each one separately can be an eye opener and
may reveal problems that you hadnt noticed. Products that arent
doing well may be dragging down your bottom line and cash flow, as
well as diverting management focus from higher margin products.

Instead of just chasing more sales, chase profitable sales. Dumping

losing products will likely speed up inventory turnover, freeing up
cash and floor space so that you can generate more returns.

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Facing a cash crunch? You may not have time to make
structural changes to your business. Here are seven
cash flow first-aid tips to bring in quick money and
give you some room to breathe.


Go to the bankConsider approaching your bankers for a temporary

respite from your principal payments. The last thing your bankers want
is for you to go under and not be able to pay back the loan at all. You
may be surprised at their flexibility, especially if you present a solid plan
for finding your feet that includes financial projections.
Sell off inventory and assetsMany businesses have inventory thats
just taking up space. Walk through your office or warehouse to see
whats collecting dust and dump it for a one-time cash infusion, even at
a loss. A sunk cost is a sunk cost. Hanging on to it compounds the error.
Generate more immediate cash by selling off unused equipment
and machinery. Use Internet selling sites or an equipment auctioneer.
This may also create surplus floor space you can rent out.
Work with your suppliersBe upfront about your situation. Can
you get extra time to pay your bills? Could you offer partial good faith
payments? Most suppliers would rather get paid down the line than not
at all if your business fails.

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Reduce employee hoursYou can temporarily cut employee hours

if business slows. It increases your odds of keeping everyone on staff
instead of losing valuable personnel.
Renegotiate your leaseAsk your landlord to reduce your rent
temporarily and let you make up the difference later on. Here again,
many landlords would prefer to keep you as a tenant rather than run
the risk of having an empty space.

Offer special sales terms for immediate cashGenerate fast cash

by offering specials. Think of creative terms to get customers attention.
For example, offer a generous discount on purchases and, in exchange,
ask for part of the bill to be paid right away. You can initially test your
offer with select, high-quality customers.

FactoringConsider selling your accounts receivable to a factoring

firm. Such a firm takes your accounts receivable in exchange for
immediate cash. Fees can be high18 to 22% annualizedso this
shouldnt be a long-term solution. But the cash might be available
right away to cover a shortfall.

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Smart cash flow management starts with financial projections. Theyre an
early warning system that helps you anticipate cash flow peaks and valleys
for the coming year.
By doing projections, you give yourself plenty of time to plan the best
ways to handle cash flow dips. These might include seeking additional
financing, changing the timing of discretionary outlays, cutting expenses,
ensuring an adequate cash reserve, or asking suppliers and bankers for
some breathing room.
Your projections also allow you to create a performance dashboard,
letting you see how youre doing throughout the year by comparing your
projections against actual income and outlays. (See more in Section 3.)

An end to guesswork
Without financial projections, anticipating slow times of the year is
just guesswork. If you hit a cash squeeze, you can waste valuable time
scrambling to figure out whats gone wrong and how to fix it. If you need
an emergency loan, your banker is likely to be skeptical about taking on
the risk and unimpressed by your lack of planning.
Matt Rendall says cash flow planning is critical for his robot manufacturing
company, Clearpath Robotics, in Kitchener, Ontario. Sales are growing
by 100% annually, and that can pose big challenges, especially if revenues
arent available to cover costs for new projects.

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If weve got four or five big projects that come online all at once and
we need to start making payments on all those projects, well get into
a cash crunch, he says. Then all of them will pay at the same time,
and well be flush again. So cash flow management for our business
is critical.

Cash flow management for

our business is critical.

MATT RENDALL | CEO | Clearpath Robotics

Compares cash flow to projections

Rendall, Clearpaths CEO, says he does cash flow projections at the start
of each year for the coming 12 months. Through the year, he compares
actual cash flow to the projections once a week to see how the company is
doing and make needed adjustments. He also reviews his projections each
quarter to see whether they need to be updated.
The projections are also useful for setting payment schedules for individual
projects, indicating when customers will make prepayments.
Thats been really helpful in smoothing the overall cash flow in our
business. Were receiving prepayments from our customers before
spending money, he says. Our customers are financing their own jobs.

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7 steps for making financial projections

Plan your coming year

First, think about what you want to accomplish over the next
12 months. This should be based on your strategic plan for your
business. In particular, be sure to list anticipated big-ticket projects,
such as buying a new truck, redesigning your website or updating
your computers.

Make projections
To create your financial projections, you can use an Excel
spreadsheet (many sample spreadsheets are available free online)
or tools available in your accounting software. Based on experience
and your plans for the coming year, prepare three documents:

cash flow projections that show expected monthly cash

inflows and outflows, including major anticipated purchases
and financing (if your business has very tight cash flow, you
might need weekly projections instead of monthly ones)

>> a projected income (profit and loss) statement

>> a projected balance sheet

Its a good idea to include various scenariosoptimistic, most

likely and pessimisticso you can map out the impacts of each
one and reduce the risk of surprises.

Focus on actual cash flow

Your cash flow projections shouldnt include non-cash items, such
as depreciation. Also, dont assume sales will convert to cash right
away. Enter them as cash only when you expect to get paid, based
on experience.

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Do contingency planning
Consider contingency measures in the event of a sudden cash
flow dip. Its better to have emergency steps ready than to try
to wing it in a crisis. (For some ideas, see 7 tips to ease a cash
crunch, above.)


Think strategically
Your cash flow forecast is a tactical tool you can use to answer
strategic questions. Use it to experiment with what-ifs to see
the cash flow impact of various scenarios, such as faster bill
collection, slower cash outflows, improved profit margins, a big
vehicle purchase or the elimination of your five slowest-paying

Set a target cash reserve

Set a target you can live with for your cash reserve in case of
emergencies. Many businesses like to have access to enough cash
to cover at least 90 days of operations (including cash in the bank
and room on their line of credit). But some businesses target
even more if revenues in their industry fluctuate greatly. Study
past cash flow cycles in your company and industry to set an
appropriate target.

Also keep in mind that having too much cash on hand isnt
good, either. It means missed returns, because the cash isnt
available to be invested in the business.

Get help
Consider getting outside help in creating your financial
projections and monitoring your progress through the year.

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Monitoring your cash flow as the year progresses is one of the most
important things you can do to track the financial pulse of your business.
Tracking your cash flow doesnt have to be complicated. Starting from
your cash flow and other financial projections, you simply fill in your actual
results for each period. Now you have an easily updated dashboard that
will tell you how youre doing and quickly reveal variations that might
require corrective action. (Accounting software often offers a dashboard as
part of its cash flow management tools.)
Many entrepreneurs compare their financial projections with actual results
once a month. However, some businesses with large fluctuations prefer a
weekly check-in.

Take a deeper look

Once a quarter, its a good idea to take a deeper look at the numbers and
update your projections as actual data become available. Its also useful to
track these cash flow metrics.

Cash conversion cycle

Your cash conversion cycle equals your average collection period

(how many days it takes your customers to pay you) plus days
inventory outstanding (how long it takes, on average, to sell your
inventory) minus average days payable (how long it takes you to pay
your bills).

The lower the number, the better. It means you have more cash
on hand to generate additional returns and/or reduce your line

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of credit. Tracking this metric over time will help you identify
sources of cash flow problems and measure your progress in
improving your cash flow management. (See sections 4 to 7 for
advice on how to improve your cash conversion cycle.)

Inventory turnover (inventory turns)

This metric is the number of times your business sells its inventory
per year. It is closely related to days inventory outstanding. The
faster your inventory turns, the better. (See Section 7 for more
details on inventory management.)

Cash on hand
Continuously monitor how much cash you have on hand and check
it against the target you set when you did your financial projections
(see Section 2). Some businesses monitor this number daily. If
cash on hand falls below your target, alarm bells should go off and
you should take contingency measures. (See 7 tips to ease a cash
crunch in Section 1.)

Learned a lesson from recession

The last recession taught Karri Schuermans a lot about the importance of
cash flow management at the two Vancouver restaurants she owns with
her husband, Nico.
If the recession had continued, we wouldnt have made it, simply because
we didnt have cash, says Schuermans, co-owner of the award-winning
Chambar restaurant and Caf Medina. We thought the contingency fund
we used to run with was safe, but it actually wasnt enough.
Schuermans does cash flow projections for each coming year, divided up
into 13 periods of 28 days each (in order to have the same number of days
in each period).

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Checks actual results

She then checks the companys actual results against her projections at the
end of each period to catch variations, determine their cause and come up
with solutions.
Our sommelier, bar manager, general manager and executive chef are
each responsible for their cost centres being kept in line as a percentage of
sales. And they receive bonuses based on being able to keep those in line,
which is a good motivator.
Its a way of delegating responsibility to my managers, allowing them to
prioritize where the focus needs to be, based on the difference between
actuals and projections.

If the recession had

continued, we wouldnt have
made it, simply because we
didnt have cash.

KARRI SCHUERMANS | Co-owner | Chambar restaurant

and Caf Medina

Zeroes in on problems
Zeroing in on problems right away makes them easier to fix before they
spiral into a serious shortfall, Schuermans says. Its a way of keeping a
really close eye, because there are so many different ways you can lose
profit margin in a restaurantfrom napkins, to breakage, to liquor spillage,
to food over-portioning.
If all of a sudden our costs are out, and were not pulling those costs back
in or making up for it somewhere else, then my cash flow isnt going to be
what I expected.
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Average collection periodNumber of days it takes for your

customers to pay you, on average.
Average days payableNumber of days it takes you to pay your bills,
on average.
Cash conversion cycleAverage collection period plus days inventory
outstanding minus average days payable.
Cash on handCash in the bank plus available room in your line
of credit.
Days inventory outstandingNumber of days it takes to sell your
inventory, on average.
Inventory turnover (inventory turns)Number of times you sell
your inventory per year.

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Say youve got big plans to expand your small business. Youd like to
buy a new truck, build a prototype or redesign your website.
How will you pay for your plans?
Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of paying for growth projects
out of everyday cash, instead of seeking a business loan or other
appropriate financing.

Avoid putting stress on cash flow

That approach can put a lot of stress on your cash flow. Even if you have
healthy profits and are flush with cash right now, what happens if your
revenue hits an unexpected speed bump? With your money tied up in
long-term assets, you could wind up in a sudden cash squeeze.
At that point, its usually too late to approach a bank for emergency cash.
Bankers arent likely to risk a loan to a company with dodgy finances that
has shown poor planning to boot.
Moreover, with cash tied up in long-term assets, you may miss out
on opportunities.

Match financing to asset lifespan

The key when paying for an expansion project is to match the source
of cash to the type of expenditure. Everyday cash is appropriate for
recurring expenditures such as payroll, office supplies and inventory.
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When purchasing long-term assets, the rule of thumb is to match the

financing to the assets expected lifespan. You can get the most flexibility
for your various spending requirements by arranging for a mix of term
loans, a line of credit and overdraft protectioneach matched to an
appropriately aged underlying asset or purpose.

The risk is that when theres

an economic slowdown, you
might have a hard time paying
your suppliers.

YANNICK ACHIM | Owner | Fromagerie Yannick

Yannick Achim spends a little time every day tracking cash flow at his chain
of six Quebec cheese stores, Fromagerie Yannick. You can imagine the
number of transactions and entries, he says. If we miss a few days in our
cash flow management, its too hard to catch up and locate possible errors
or reasons for a shortfall.

Borrow to protect cash flow

Achim says the recession taught him the importance of using financing to
pay for long-term assets. Before that, he had used his working capital for
purchases such as computer systems, cash registers and other equipment.
We had a lot of cash, but it wasnt really a good strategy. When the
markets slowed in 2008, we didnt have that cash anymore.

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The risk is that when theres an economic slowdown, you might have
a hard time paying your suppliers. You could also miss out on business
opportunities because your money is tied up in assets.

4 financing tips to boost cash flow

Plan ahead

Work out upcoming financing needs when preparing your financial

projections. You can then approach your bank ahead of time and
arrange the best possible terms.

Having your projections in hand will help you show your bankers
that youre a good manager. The plan should spell out what you will
use the money for, when you will need it and how you will repay it.

When considering a loan, dont look only at the interest rate.

The terms can be just as important. Can you defer principal
repayments for an initial period? How much security does the bank
need? How long is the amortization period? Flexible terms can
free up more cash.

Compare loan terms

Talk to suppliers
Consider asking suppliers to finance a purchase. Many are willing
to offer the equivalent of a loan (by accepting deferred payments,
for example) if it means a sale. Its a win-win for the supplier and
for you.

Retire high-interest debt

Work with your banker to identify any high-interest debt that you
can retire or reduce.

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Collecting accounts receivable more quickly is one of the best ways to
improve your companys cash flow.
Collecting faster can also boost your bottom line. Lets say you reduce
your average collection period (the number of days it takes clients to
pay you) from 45 days to 30. If you have $1 million in annual sales, that
difference means 15 days more cash in your pocket by years endor
That $41,000, in turn, means $2,500 in annual savings in carrying charges
on your line of credit (assuming 6% interest). Alternatively, you could use
the extra cash to create additional investment returns$3,700 more each
year, if your business earns 9% annually.

4 tips for collecting bills faster

Get invoices out faster

The faster you invoice, the faster youll get paid. Be sure to send
invoices as soon as you ship or complete a job, preferably by email.
If youre working on a large job, consider negotiating upfront and/
or milestone payments.

Technology can help you collect faster. Some types of accounting

software let you send an electronic invoice that includes a
link taking your clients to a digital portal where they can pay
bills online.

Many businesses use mobile technology to speed up collections

even more. If youre on a service call, you can use a smartphone

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to log into a mobile billing service and enter the transaction details
and your customers credit card information on the spot.

Apart from being faster than creating invoices manually, using

technology cuts mailing and paper costs. It can also reduce the risk
of NSF cheques and the time employees spend generating bills.

Offer discounts to faster payers

Consider offering a small discount for quick payment (e.g., within
10 days). This is often called 1/10 net 30meaning a customer
gets a 1% discount for paying within 10 days; otherwise, the bill
is due in 30 days. (Some businesses go as high as a 2% discount.)
But these discounts are costly and should be used only if you
need to get cash in the door quickly. (See the third tip in 5 Tips
for controlling expenses below to see just how expensive such
discounts can be.)

Get tough on deadbeats

One in four entrepreneurs say waiting for late-paying customers

is the worst part of being a small business owner, according to a
2011 survey for Intuit. The same proportion of entrepreneurs say
they spend three to five hours each week invoicing and chasing
overdue payments.

One way to encourage your customers to pay on time is to charge

late fees. Just be sure to mention the penalty interest you charge
on invoices and then follow up with late payers. As well, when
customers who have been laggards on previous orders come back,
you can ask for partial or full payment up front.

Consider using an automated billing system that sends out regular

reminders to late payers. When collecting bills, the rule of thumb is
that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Be firm and stay in regular
contact with late customers, while maintaining a professional tone.

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Consider firing laggards

Think about dumping your worst customerschronic late payers,

those who complain excessively or those who return a lot of
merchandise. Companies often put up with such clients because
theyre afraid of losing business. But bad customers cost you
money by draining employee attention and company resources.

Getting rid of bad customers can free you and your staff to give
more attention to better customers and pursue new business.

Instead of telling customers outright that you dont want their

business, you could increase their prices. They may balk at paying
more and take their business elsewhere. On the other hand,
if they do agree to pay more, the additional revenue should
compensate for the extra effort they require.

A matter of survival
For Wendy Tayler, cash flow management is a matter of business survival
because of huge seasonal fluctuations in sales at her Whitehorse air charter
company, Alkan Air.
She says cash flow management can be tricky for small business owners,
but its also vital. Entrepreneurs are usually not accountants, so theyre
forced into this world of having to deal with cash flow without really
knowing how to do it.
One of Taylers favourite tools is electronic banking. Nearly half of her
clients are now paying their bills through direct online deposit. She hopes
to boost that number to 80%.
Implementing the change took some effort. She had to overcome
resistance in her accounting department, where staff worried about
keeping track of which invoices had been paid.

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Online payments save time

However, employees got on board when they saw the results. She
estimates online payments go through at least seven days faster than
conventional ones, due to saved processing and mailing time. The
receivables are getting paid more regularly, and there are a lot fewer
follow-up phone calls that have to occur in accounting, Tayler says.
Online deposits also help Tayler spot payment hiccups more quickly.
If a customer always pays you on the 21st of every month, but its now
the 22nd and that payment hasnt come in, you know theres a problem
and you can follow up right away.

The receivables are getting

paid more regularly, and there
are a lot less follow-up phone

WENDY TAYLER | President | Alkan Air

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Holding onto cash longer is just as important as getting paid faster.
Both mean more cash in your business.
Roger Sholanki keeps a close watch on cash outflows at his Toronto
software business, Book4Time. The company has seen nearly 700%
revenue growth in the past five years, thanks to its wildly successful
scheduling software tailored to hotel spa and fitness centres.
Well pay bills on time. We wont stretch somebody out, Sholanki says.
But I dont pay before I have to pay. Especially for big ticket items, we
wait until its due.

Saves money with credit card

Sholanki also uses a corporate credit card to get a little more time to pay
some bills. Most cards dont charge interest if the amount owing is paid off
each month.
And he isnt shy about asking suppliers for better payment terms.
It doesnt hurt to ask, Sholanki says. Dont just take at face value what
youve been given. Negotiating is very important. I always do that.
Most of the time, people will be flexible.
Were not in a situation where cash flow is tight, he adds. But this is just
good business practice. If you tighten your cash flow management, youre
not going to find yourself in a situation where cash is tight. Thats why we
do it.

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We wont stretch
somebody out. But I dont
pay before I have to pay.

5 tips for controlling expenses

Maintaining control over both fixed and variable expenses is an
essential part of maximizing cash flow and profits in your business.
Here are some tactics you can use to rein in expenses, increase your
average days payable (the number of days it takes you, on average, to pay
your bills) and prepare for unforeseen costs that crop up over the course
of the year.

Manage variable costs

Look at your companys past variable expenses and calculate what

percentage of sales they represent. Historic percentages provide
both a good indicator of potential future costs and a benchmark to
use in keeping those costs in line with selling activity.

Focus on fixed costs

People tend to become complacent about fixed costs, such

as insurance and maintenance contracts, because they are
generally recurrent and often reflect longstanding relationships

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with suppliers. Besides asking for better terms from suppliers,

you should also periodically test the market to see whether you
can get a better deal from competing companies.

Its good practice to get two or three quotes regularly, by putting

out a request for proposal (RFP) or using a less formal method. Its
important to watch your costs and be seen to be watching your costs.

Offer to pay more

In some cases, you also may find it worthwhile to offer to pay your
suppliers slightly more (e.g., 1%) if they let you stretch payments
by, for example, letting you pay in 60 days, instead of 30. Your
suppliers win by earning more, while you can use the extra cash to
reduce your use of your line of credit and/or generate more sales.

Conversely, some suppliers offer a discount to customers willing

to pay quickly. These discounts can produce surprisingly large
returns on your capital. For example, you could earn what works
out to be a 37% annual effective interest rate if you receive a 2%
discount for paying an invoice within 10 days, rather than paying
the full amount in 30 days. With that kind of a return, it can make
sense to use your extra cash or borrow money to take advantage
of such discounts.

Invest in technology
Explore technology that may help your business improve efficiency,
increase productivity or reduce costs. For example, many companies
are now using cloud computing systems rather than in-house systems
that can be relatively expensive to buy and maintain.

Give incentives to staff

Make people accountable for costs and establish appropriate
rewards for employees who find ways to reduce expenses.
This helps to create a zero-waste culture within your organization.
It also helps motivate staff members charged with reducing
expenses to stay on task and be creative.
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Holding too much inventory can take a large bite out of cash flow.
However, you dont want to keep so little inventory that you run out
of products or cant deliver on time. Finding the right balance is called
inventory optimization.
This was one of the challenges Yan Bariteau faced at his company,
FIG Clothing, a womens travel wear firm in Montreal.
With huge sales growth (sales quintupled from 2010 to 2012), Bariteau
typically kept a buffer supply of 15% extra stock on top of what his clients
had ordered, to deal with repeat business and extra sales.

Inventory strategy backfires

The strategy backfired in 2013 when poor weather caused a sudden drop
in sales, leading to surplus inventory. Its not easy to sell skirts and dresses
when its raining every day, he says.
Bariteaus retail partners, facing the same problem, fell behind in paying
their bills. His cash flow then took another hit when orders for his fall 2013
line went up 75%. Bariteau had to liquidate much of the unsold inventory
at a large discount to raise cash.
We learned a lot from our experience, he says. He freed up cash
by reducing his buffer stock level from 15% to between 10 and 12%.
Not having enough stock is not ideal, but its not the end of the world,
either. We can always repeat the same style the next season.
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Get back on track

Another innovation: Bariteau uses just one type of fabric for each of his
clothing collections and makes sure he has a buffer supply of the material.
When sales start, we see right away which items we need more of, and
we can make them quickly and use just-in-time inventory, he says.
One ace up Bariteaus sleeve is that his manufacturing is all done in
Canada, not Asia. This gives him a much shorter lead time between orders
and delivery, allowing for a quicker response to demand changes.

We see right away which

items we need more of, and we
can make them quickly and use
just-in-time inventory.

YAN BARITEAU | President | FIG Clothing

6 tips to optimize inventory management

Here are tips to decrease your days inventory outstanding (average
time products stay in inventory) and improve inventory turnover while
minimizing impacts on sales.

Coordinate different types of inventory

Businesses often manage different types of inventory in separate

departments. Coordinating the various types of inventory
(raw materials, work in progress, finished goods) can improve
inventory optimization.

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Plan for changes in demand and volatility

If your company has seasonal highs and lows in demand, you

probably try to optimize inventory levels to meet your demand
cycle. However, dont forget that the demand cycle can affect not
only the volume of orders but also their volatility.

For example, a restaurant may have a huge range of $100,000 to

$300,000 in monthly sales during its summer high season, but a
much smaller variation of $50,000 to $60,000 in the slow season.
Inventory levels should take into account cycles in both demand
and volatilityfor example, you may want to increase buffer stock
when volatility is higher.

Your customers may have different expectations in terms of

service levels and lead times. Weigh all of these factors when
setting inventory levels. You should be up front with customers
about how you manage inventory and your lead-time requirements
to meet their orders.

Work to build strong supplier relationships

The goal is to work with companies you can rely on to deliver
on time and go the extra mile to meet a tight schedule.

Optimize for different customers

Consider technology
Think about buying inventory management software,
which has tools to help you forecast demand, compress your
order-to-delivery cycle and optimize buffer stock levels.

Dump losing products

Speed up inventory turnover by analyzing each product line
and dumping products that lose money.

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Cash flow management is an essential practice for entrepreneurs. It can
smooth financial ups and downs and reduce the risk of a cash squeeze that
can derail even a profitable company.
It helps you understand your financing needs. And it may help boost your
bottom linefor example, by freeing up money you can then use to grow.
Focusing on better cash flow management helped Mike Whittakers
Bont Foods in Dieppe, New Brunswick, come back from the brink of
financial disaster and become a stronger business.
Cash flow projections are an irreplaceable tool for Matt Rendall at
Clearpath Robotics in Kitchener, Ontario, to help smooth the peaks
and valleys in his revenues.
And in Whitehorse, Yukon, Wendy Taylers Alkan Air uses electronic
billing to accelerate cash flow, saving time and headaches for her
accounting department.
Tighter cash flow management can make your business stronger, too.
BDC is here to help. We provide business loans and advice to help
thousands of entrepreneurs just like you protect and better manage
their cash flow.
We do it because its our job to help you succeed. Visit BDC.ca
or call 1-877-BDC-BANX (1-877-232-2269) to see what we can do
for your business.

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Master Your Cash Flow: A Guide For Entrepreneurs is published by the

Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). Content from this publication
may be reprinted when permission is obtained and credit is given to BDC.
For editorial information, please contact BDC Public Affairs at
April 2014

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